I was walking barefoot on the beach the other day. The surface was at a slight slant and I wasn’t paying attention. Next thing I knew, I’d stubbed my toe and nearly toppled over. It’s not the first time this has happened, but it’s the first time I accepted it wasn’t an anomaly, that it was happening more often than it should. Darn! Another of those things, that if I ask my doctor about, I’ll get the same response I always get, “You’ve got to expect that at your age.”
Now, I don’t ask, I figure it out on my own. Yet, these growing old challenges, and the need to adjust to new limitations is always a surprise. If you are in your 20’s and 30’s reading this, and thinking, “It will never happen to me,” you’re mistaken. I had that same cocky attitude when I was your age. But, old is in your future and the challenges it will impose. You’ll have to confront them. Or, rather, they will confront you. Sooner than you think. If it hasn’t already started.
I was in my late 20’s when it first confronted me. I learned I could no longer eat three sandwiches, two pints of milk, a slab of cake, a bag of chips and an apple for lunch. My teenage metabolism had “left the building.” It wasn’t until I stepped on a scale and discovered my lanky, teenage weight, of 165 had pushed over the 200 pound line. I could no longer eat everything in sight. Then, in my forties, I was forced to buy reading glasses. Something I should have done in my late thirties, but my male ego and its denial properties wouldn’t accept that my visual capability had diminished. It wasn’t until I could no longer read the newspaper because I couldn’t hold it far enough away for my eyes to focus that I admitted I needed glasses.
I’ve adjusted over the years, but only after periods of denial. I’ve stubbed my toe on the beach a half dozen times before I accepted the fact that my muscle and tendon structure had sagged a bit and wasn’t up to the task of pulling my foot up high enough to clear the ground on an irregular surface. So, I no longer can walk along and focus on the scenery; I have to watch the ground and constantly remind myself, “Pick up your foot, dummy!” It’s a challenge to think and walk at the same time. It limits my ability to gawk and affects my memory. My brain is fully occupied with walking and gawking, and has no neurons left to operate my memory. If you see me walking along the street (or on the beach) don’t say, “Hi,” It just might send me toppling to the ground. And, into the hospital.
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